2009: 3 movies

Un tour de manege
Directed by Nicolas Athane, Brice Chevillard,
Alexis Liddell, Françoise Losito,
and Mai Nguyen 
Music by Pablo Pico

   Almost too perfect! Maybe the greatest movie. Seriously, the colors and movement, the boldness of getting a spirit so tender into a movie is mind-boggling. The fact that it's so short plays into its theme brilliantly. 
   The title translates from the French to "A merry-go-round"

Taking Woodstock
Directed by Ang Lee
Written by James Schamus
Produced by Celia D. Costas, Ang Lee,
and James Schamus
Cinematography by Eric Gautier
Editing by Tim Squyres
Music by Danny Elfman
Production design by David Gropman
Art direction by Peter Rogness
Set decor by Ellen Christiansen
Costumes by Joseph G. Aulisi
Make-up by LuAnn Claps and Nicky Pattison Illum 
Hair-styles by Jerry DeCarlo and Lyndell Quiyou
Starring Demetri Martin, Imelda Staunton,
Paul Dano, and Kelli Garner

   Remember that Hitchcock movie "Shadow of a Doubt" (1943), where a young kid is bored in a conservative life and prays for Uncle Charlie to visit and make everything alive again? But when Uncle Charlie comes, life becomes a nightmare? 
   In this movie, Uncle Charlie comes in the form of the hippie movement, and this time, all problems are solved. Great music, great performances, great direction. One of the best movies to get you into the mindset of the late 1960s US rock and hippie movements. Also gives a rendering of what America is, what it could be, and what is keeping it back.

Written, directed, produced, and edited 
by Rashaad Ernesto Green
Starring Kaylin Bensinger and Reinaldo Marcus Green

   Well done character-study. Well done because it shows adulthood-based visuals that we try to match with the childhood-based audio. The whole time it has us working like a third member of the visuals and a second member of the audio. We're trying to figure out what's going on. Who's talking. What's the message? And will it be up to the task of rendering this intimate physical act as connected or just a selling point? In the end, I deem it a tasteful, respectful, and purposeful sex scene. But it's only successful because it is a deeply emotional and honest offering.

posted 2020 October 23

One addition for 1980: Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise

posted on 2020 October 19

This movie is being added to a year already posted,

either I had not seen this movie when that year's essay was posted,

or I had seen it but at one point did not think the movie merited inclusion on this list,

though I do now.

Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise (1980)
Directed by Robert Mugge
Cinematography by Larry McConkey
Starring Sun Ra and John Gilmore

   This is for people who worship music. Rock or jazz, heavy metal, classical, blues, techno, or funk, this has something for you. While watching you may find yourself asking these questions: Is this guy, Sun Ra, crazy? Is this a documentary of a cult? Is this bad music?
   But by the end I found I had experienced two epic drum solos, two epic saxophone solos, and two epic keyboard solos. As well as a documentation of a brilliant composer, musician, and band-leader who contributed to music defiantly and with regality as well as with a sense of humor.
   It's all told in an engaging style that stimulates the eyes and ears. In other words, this is a movie you can trip out to.

2008: 2 movies

Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Written and directed by Woody Allen
Produced by Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum,
and Gareth Wiley
Cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe
Editing by Alisa Lepselter
Production design by Alain Bainée
Art direction by Iñigo Navarro
Set decor by Sol Caramilloni and Sylvia Steinbrecht
Costume design by Sonia Grande
Hair-styles by Manolo García and Robert Fama
Make-up by Ana Lozano
Paintings by Agustí Puig
Narration by Christopher Evan Welch
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall,
 Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz,
and Chris Messina

   Colorful and entertaining tale of two very different American girls who meet an interesting painter while on vacation in Spain and each have a romantic episode with him. 
   The wild card comes half-way through with the fiery unpredictable character of Maria Elena played perfectly by Penelope Cruz. She makes it possible for the alternative, threesome lifestyle. But on another level, Cruz' character represents the creative spirit that haunts a person. Clingy, manic, and volatile, Woody Allen, through Cruz, points at the violent ugly truth of authenticity and originality and how it stands fiercely in the face of boring and soul-killing conformism.
   On the basic level, the movie is like a dream, a vacation, a re-evaluation of life-goals. And always vusually and aurally pleasing. It presents the war between societal norms and the real necessities of people in as neat and engaging a way as possible.
   There is a scene that is most memorable. Cruz's Maria Elena reacts to the end of a love affair. It's a shrieking of pain that pierces the heart of all those who encounter it. In a sense, that is the blues. And it is one of the several combined reasons that this movie is unforgettable.

Gake no ue no Ponyo
Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Produced by Toshio Suzuki
Cinematography by Atsushi Okui
Editing by Hayao Miyazaki and Takeshi Seyama
Art direction by Noboru Yoshida
Music by Joe Hisaishi
Animation direction by  Katsuya Kondô
Color design by Michiyo Yasuda

   Along with, Majo no takkyûbin (AKA Kiki's Delivery Service) (1989), one of Miyazaki's best. Wonderful because of how it wanders through the fantastic, the tragic, the romantic, the humorous, and the heroic. Over and over again, you are trying to figure out what kind of movie you are watching, even 'til the end. The rewards along the way are multi-faceted, touching and splendid.
   The title translates from Japanese to "Ponyo of the cliffs".

Posted 2020 August 20

2007: 3 movies

posted on 2020 June 8

Margot at the Wedding
Written and directed by Noah Baumbach
Produced by Scott Rudin
Cinematography by Harris Savides
Editing by Carol Littleton
Casting by Douglas Aibel
Production design by Anne Ross
Art direction by Adam Stockhausen
Set decor by Debra Schutt
Costumes by Ann Roth
Make-up by Michal Bigger
Hair-styles by Lori Guidroz
Starring Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh,
Jack Black, Zane Pais,
and John Turturro

   Fantastic study of childhood in the developed world. There is sadness, there is beauty, there is confusion, every character has admirable traits and despicable ones. No one is to be trusted but everyone is to be loved. It's like a wizard has taken up cinema, and emotional engagement has, somehow in an instant, become the new metric. The reliance on silence or muted music as the soundtrack is both a bold statement of trust in the strong script and performances, as well as a realistic method of depicting what life really feels like. The decision is successful on both counts. The fact that we are from the beginning trying to obtain a meaning or moral, and that the morals and meanings are constantly morphing is one of its stronger attributes. Master performances all around. Mephistopheles must have been the editor. And the director. And the writer. The whole team gets extra kudos for being a part of this phenomenal project.
   Side note: I find it interesting that both of the only two directors who have movies that made it into the Canon for this year are friends and sometimes collaborators. Their understanding of cinema's history and how they could fit within it, propelling it forward, blossomed at the same time and maybe even assisted each other's achievements.

Hotel Chevalier
Written and directed by Wes Anderson
Produced by Patrice Haddad
Cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman
Editing by Vincent Marchand
Art direction by Kris Moran
Make-up and Hair-styles by Frances Hannon
Starring Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman

   This movie and the next one present a conundrum, since they are always shown together, they share much of the same cast and crew, as well as mood, look, pacing, characters. On top of this, the story-lines compliment each other hand in glove. I have only watched them together and I have no desire to watch them separately. It's like appetizer before meal. Song before symphony. Poem before novel.
   So, how do we decide which comes first on this list? I list them in order of which was released first and which is to be screened first.
   As for the quality and importance in cinema of this short movie, it's a neat, subtle, quietly humorous piece about the violent yearning to hold onto someone who isn't ready to be held onto by anyone. The lasting effect is an epic romanticism, one heart breaking as it releases a lover that wants to be set free.

The Darjeeling Limited 
Directed by Wes Anderson
Written by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola,
and Jason Schwartzman
Produced by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola,
Lydia Dean Pilcher, and Scott Rudin
Cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman
Editing by Andrew Weisblum
Production design by Mark Friedberg
Art direction by Aradhana Seth
Set decor by Suzanne Caplan Merwanji and Aradhana Seth
Costumes by Milena Canonero
Hair-styles by Fabian Garcia and Frances Hannon
Make-up by Frances Hannon
Starring Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman,
Adrien Brody, Anjelica Huston,
Amara Karan, and Bill Murray

   This is the main feature tied to the introductory movie listed above. Should be viewed together as they are parts of a two-pronged project.
   It's a fantastic novel of a movie. The kind you can't put down, but rather you race through the pages of breathlessly, laughing, crying, shouting with pain, and shouting with pride.
   It's about family and how time separates, but how some bonds can never be replaced, and also how some people you love are the people can hurt you the worst. It's intricately designed and somehow hilarious with a great soundtrack. The music makes it not only a novel of a movie but also a classic rock record of a movie. Must see.

One addition for 1966: Liitle Richard: Live in Paris

posted on 2020 June 7

Little Richard: Live in Paris (1966)
Recorded at the L’Olympia in November
Backed by UK band, Johnny B. Great & The Quotations

   Wild fiery sexual violent proud and beautiful. The crowd is feeling it. Gay gospel boy who rose to fame through seedy nightclub performances and early historic recordings of the new sound, known as rock & roll, that was sweeping the nation in the 1950s, Little Richard, who was a peer of Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, and Buddy Holly, playing a raucous set of the same music he played in the mid-1950s, that exploded in popularity again in the early 1960s because of new energetic young white English entertainers such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, who cemented rock's vitality and caused it to go global, or viral, before that was even a term. And now, one of the originals, who had toured with the Beatles, the Stones, and Jimi Hendrix, before they were even widely known, comes back with a concert to re-assert his dominance, his status as creator, his status as visionary, his status as the ruler of these times. And the audience understands and accepts and claps and shakes and stares and drools and is mesmerized.
   The shirtlessness and overt intense sexual aura adds authenticity, and ushers in the era of sex in music, which would be furthered by the Doors, David Bowie, funk, punk rock, heavy metal, and now almost every other act in music today.
   In other words, this concert movie isn't great because it documents the presenting of new sounds or new music to the world, after all, these songs are all about a decade old, but it  is a great movie because it documents the presenting of a new mood, a new philosophy, or maybe an old one. It documents a new naked unabashed style of performance, and the lifting of previously banned or unacceptable themes, like lurid staring, and a shirtless male beckoning the crowd like a lover, and a black man embracing his sensuality in a room full of admirers, and heightening it even further.
   Recorded three years before the mind-shifting, ethos-shift that was the Woodstock, Festival of Peace and Love. I mean, he's literally making the crowd beg for him to throw out to them his sweaty shirt for a minute or two. The energy is insane. The music is great. The band is on point. The performer is a demon. And the crowd is perfectly in tune with the times. Great document.

2006: 7 movies

posted on 2020 April 20

Dave Chappelle's Block Party
Directed by Michel Gondry
Written by Dave Chappelle
Produced by Mustafa Abuelhija, Dave Chappelle,
Julie Fong, and Bob Yari
Music by Cory Smith
Cinematography by Ellen Kuras
Editing by Jeff Buchanan, Sarah Flack,
and Jamie Kirkpatrick
Production design by Lauri Faggioni
Art direction by Pete Zumba
Costume design by Whitney Kyles
Hair-styles by Mary Cooke and Qodi Armstrong
Make-up by Anita Gibson and Francesca Buccellato
Starring Dave Chappelle, Quest Love,
Yasiin Bey, Dead Prez,
The Roots, Erykah Badu,
Jill Scott, Kanye West,
Common, Cody ChesnuTT,
Lauryn Hill, The Fugees,
Talib Kweli, and John Legend

   How does one even talk about this movie? First off, is it even a movie? What in the world is it? After repeated viwings and 14 years distance, I can finally see 3 things this project is. It starts off as a touching and inspirational act of charity, because superstar Dave Chappelle is giving back to his community as well as sending a message of unity and celebration and beauty to the world. Secondly, it's a superb concert video, among the best, capturing the best underground black U.S. musicians as well as the best mainstream black U.S. musicians. It builds up from when the concert was a concept to the sign off, the whole time weaving in several of the most riveting musical performances recorded to film. Mixing in commentary on music, comedy, their intersection, and the state of race relations at the time. And thirdly, it's a document that reveals the spirit of the United States of America at the time. It's a diverse population with loads of baggage, tons of tension, but we see here the medicine, the panacea, that Dave offers is the correct prescription for peace and prosperity. It's the same energy from the hippie 60s, the same energy that elected the first black president. It's the same energy that occupied Wall Street, and it's the same energy behind the 2016 and 2020 Bernie Sanders campaigns. That energy never died. It's alive and well. It's the heartbeat of the world. And Dave Chappelle and Michel Gondry documented it.

The Water Diary
Written and directed by Jane Campion
Produced by Christopher Gill, Lissandra Haulica,
and Marc Oberon
Music by Mark Bradshaw
Cinematography by Greig Fraser
Editing by Heidi Kenessey

   In a few minutes, this movie shows you our world, how vulnerable we are, that it's important to value what really is essential, and it ends with a vision of the species we have within us to become. Highest honors, a work of excruciating beauty. The cinematography and direction is on some spiritual, grand Beethoven-type riff, and it is very welcome.

Marie Antoinette
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola
Produced by Sofia Coppola and Ross Katz
Music by Dustin O'Halloran
Cinematography by Lance Acord
Editing by Sarah Flack
Production design by K.K. Barrett
Art direction by Pierre Duboisberranger
Set decor by Véronique Melery
Costume design by Milena Canonero
Make-up by Jean-Luc Russier and Hue Lan Van Duc
Hair-styles by Desideria Corridoni and Gérald Portenart
Starring Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman,
and Asia Argento

   Delicious. Just a pure delight. It's a cream puff, only existing to give joy. And part of the joy that this movie gives is the bittersweet sensation that life is beautiful but it has and end. A masterpiece. The soundtrack is unbelievably enjoyable and ground-breaking for its contrast with the time-period of the setting. Adds a whole other layer of meaning.

Two Additions: One for 2004 and one for 1963

Exils (2004)
Written, directed, and produced by Tony Gatlif
Music by Tony Gatlif and Delphine Mantoulet
Cinematography by Céline Bozon
Editing by Monique Dartonne
Production design by Brigitte Brassart
Starring Romain Duris and Lubna Azabal

   Gatlif does it again! He's given us another movie that while we watch, we simply can't predict a moment in it. Every action, every sound, every cut, and every long-held shot, every decision by the characters, every action by the fate of the plot, it is all unexpected, and thus the movie flies by in a blur. We can't take our eyes off it. The music and cinematography are unparalleled as goes for most Gatlif movies.
   Like a favorite album, you can sit through the whole thing and love every minute of it, but do you know what it means? Do you know what the songs are actually about? You listen and enjoy not because you understand, but because you feel. The rhythms and sounds, the characters and passers-by, the sets, themes, and mood are all just members of Gatlif's big band performance for us. It's a cutting-edge, much needed, correct step for cinema to take. You can watch it a hundred times and still find something new, enjoy some other angle of thinking about it.
   The title is an intentional mis-spelling of "Exiles".

Anita O'Day - Live in Sweden (1963)
Starring Anita O'Day, Goran Engdahl (p), 
Roman Dylag (b), and John Poole (d) 

   A live set performed with perfection by the singer, as well as the drummer. The pianist and bassist do remarkably well during choruses and verses, but stumble a little during their solos. Overall, it's a stunning thing to watch Anita, this force of music, improvise and delight a live audience with her unpredictable sounds, through long smart angles and cuts that allow this movie to still come across as fresh. A miraculous treat!
   Recorded on 1 November 1963 in Sweden. The songs performed are: Sweet Georgia Brown, Let's Fall In Love, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, Fly Me to the Moon, Honeysuckle Rose, On Green Dolphin Street, and Tea for Two. Each one performed to perfection.

Click here for the full 1963 entry

2005: 3 movies

posted 2020 February 9

The Meaning of Life 
Writing, directing, production, 
animation and cinematography
by Don Hertzfeldt
Editing by Rebecca Moline
Sound by Don Hertzfeldt and Tim Kehl

   Unbelievable! Thank god for Don Hertzfeldt. This movie starts slow and then ends up taking us to the beginning of time, outside of our solar system, and millenia forward. What are you left with? What ideals still matter to you? What really matters in the grand scope of things? This movie makes it into the Canon because it calls on us to question everything we consider integral reality. 
   I love the line in the credits: "No computers were used in the making of this movie." Worn like a true badge of honor!

The Notorious Bettie Page 
Directed by Mary Harron
Written by Mary Harron & Guinevere Turner
Produced by Pamela Koffler, John Marshall,
Katie Roumel, and Christine Vachon
Music by Mark Suozzo
Cinematography by W. Mott Hupfel III
Editing by Tricia Cooke
Production design by Gideon Ponte
Art direction by Thomas Ambrose
Set decor by Alexandra Mazur
Costume design by John Dunn
Hair-styles by Jerry DeCarlo and Michelle Johnson
Make-up by Nicki Ledermann
Starring Gretchen Mol, Lili Taylor,
Sarah Paulson, and Cara Seymour

   Puts a pit in your stomach. It's physically intriguing but morally probing. It's problematic. It calls into question the male-gaze and lust in society, and it's embodiment in cinema which is often called pornography. Is it just the extreme cases that should be called pornography, and the tamer ones "artful appreciation"? This movie is great because it not only is a document of a time when we were asking these questions, and figuring out where to draw the line of acceptability, but it also shows that we still have some wrangling to do with these questions. It makes an argument for an ideal, that we should be able to admire the real and natural world, but that we should do so in a respectful and consentual way, and that we should also be vigilant and pro-active in preventing unintended harm that may come from our admiration. In this case, one way of addressing the death of a young man from self-asphyxiation could be more education about sex, more emphasis on parenting, and the general uplift of people's living quality and engagement with each other. Scuttling away the pertinent issues and hiding from reality seem to be the bad guys in this movie.  The fact that the life-story of one person can get us involved in problem-solving in a still urgently important matter that affects our population makes this an interactive and palpably important movie.

Written, directed, produced,
and edited by Till Nowak
Music by Andreas Hornschuh and Matthias Hornschuh

   Stunning short animated movie that gets the imagination, speculation, and conversation going. Some viewers say it's an environmentalist's movie espousing naïve, simplistic views on how to fix the problems they see. But I see a different meaning, and I think this meaning hits us, if not directly, then at least subconsciously, that we, each of us, has received this same delivery that the character in the movie receives. We all have a way of connecting to and impacting our world in giant ways. One example of that is the internet. Now, it's true that the sick and twisted people are more enabled to do something cruel in a giant way, and the pro-art people more enabled to do something pro-art, the pro-money-making people more enabled to make money. But this is a movie demonstrating that. And it does so by demonstrating something positive and universal. It depicts a gardener doing something pro-plants. In other words, it's a movie illustrating the tremendous power we each have. In this way, it's a democratic movie, a realist movie, and an inspirational movie. To achieve all this with only one character, no dialogue, and in under 10 minutes is a feat of cinema. Hats off.

2001: 5 movies

posted 2018 November 30
added Das Rad on 2019 December 15

Le peuple migrateur
Directed and produced by Jacques Perrin
Co-directed by Jacques Cluzaud and Michel Debats
Written by Valentine Marvel, Jacques Perrin,
and Stéphane Durand
Cinematography by Olli Barbé, Michel Benjamin,
Sylvie Carcedo, Laurent Charbonnier,
Luc Drion, Laurent Fleutot,
Philippe Garguil, Dominique Gentil,
Bernard Lutic, Thierry Machado,
Stéphane Martin, Fabrice Moindrot,
Ernst Sasse, Michel Terrasse,
and Thierry Thomas
Music by Bruno Coulais
Edited by Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte
Production Design by Régis Nicolino
Narrated by Jacques Perrin

   Some may think that an hour and thirty minutes of footage of birds flying can not sustain their interest, but that's part of the reason this movie makes it on this list. It's not a formal documentary, but more like a symphony of dozens of bird species on their different migration paths. We get close-up looks at their features as they walk around, eat, mate, swim, interact with each other and other species, as well as, of course, fly. Most of it flows in a light and fun spirit. Then it gets majestic, and then, after not seeing people as the protagonists for such a long time, it gets philosophical and spiritual. The editing is a huge part of that. The editing is also responsible for keeping the movie engaging, for instance in the way scenes begin, the viewer has to flap a little to figure out what you're looking at, and from what angle, until the subject becomes clear. In a way, this creates a feeling of flying.
   The cinematography is gorgeously clear, with masterpiece shots and sequences. Tranquil and yet thrilling. It's a tremendous achievement that provides a supremely out-of-body experience, leaving the viewer yearn to watch the making-of. The music is at its worst, unobtrusive, and at its best, an fine complement to the various moods including the spiritual.
   The title translates from the French to "The migrant people", which states up-front that the movie's aim is to blur the lines between humans and birds, their ways and ours, to examine our differences, and possibly to re-think some of our ways and tendencies, like borders, nationalism, and racism.

Written and directed by Majid Majidi
Produced by Majid Majidi and Fouad Nahas
Music by Ahmad Pezhman
Cinematography by Mohammad Davudi
Edited by Hassan Hassandoost
Set decor by Behzad Kazzazi
Costumes by Behzad Kazzazi and Malek Jahan Khazai
Makeup  by Jahanjou Jafari, Mohsen Mossavi,
and Affarine Sadeghi
Starring Hossein Abedini, Zahra Bahrami,
and Mohammad Amir Naji

   A small quiet illegal refugee gets your job, and now your life sucks. That's the opening note of this movie. And from there it leads to a gushing exploration of sexuality, love, selflessness, and the definition of a good living. The cinematography is at times harsh and barren, and other times sprouting honestly with sparse life and color. There are moments, especially towards the end when a haunting spirituality overwhelms the viewer. The tremendous and perfectly timed close-ups aid in this.
   The fact that the titular actor is completely silent for the whole movie is a rough gamble, but makes for a gripping and long-lasting effect. Not only is it a touching love story with humanist themes, but it's also a clever working around the censorship laws governing movie-making in Iran, which regulate relationships between men and women, and the female body.
   The title is the name of the lead female character and translates from the Farsi to "Rain". 

In the Bedroom
Directed by Todd Field
Written by Robert Festinger and Todd Field
Produced by Todd Field, Ross Katz,
and Graham Leader
Music by Thomas Newman
Cinematography by Antonio Calvache
Edited by Frank Reynolds
Art direction by Shannon Hart
Set decor by Josh Outerbridge
Costumes by Melissa Economy
Wardrobe by Shana Schoepke
Makeup by Terri Harper
Hair styles by Sally J. Harper
Starring Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek,
Marisa Tomei, Nick Stahl,
and William Mapother

   Now, this is top-level dramatic cinema. People often say that things are relatively easy because they aren't brain surgery. But I'd say this movie is just as hard as brain surgery, if not more so. Shifting tone, story-line, shifting protagonist, but the sum is weighty and palpable. The American dream, sweetly and comfortably set in a pretty fishing town in Maine, turns into a deafeningly quiet backdrop for grief and a helpless thirst for justice. The unhurried pace of direction and editing is mostly responsible for the success of the piece. You feel the days. You feel the minutes.
   The chilly cinematography and monstrously good acting paints quietude, letting the audience feel the scream for ourselves. The main three themes are the loss of a loved one, the violence that can be awakened in people, that exists under the surface of our pleasant exteriors, and the roles of violence and assertiveness in sexual relationships. In the end, the tone is one of victory. The lion has roared, proven itself once again. The wolf has been scared off. The pride is scarred but has regained its peace.

One Addition for 1935: The Good Fairy

The Good Fairy (1935)
Directed by William Wyler
Written by Preston Sturges
Produced by Carl Laemmle Jr. and William Wyler
Cinematography by Norbert Brodine 
Editing by Daniel Mandell
Art direction by Charles D. Hall
Starring Margaret Sullavan, Herbert Marshall,
and Frank Morgan

   The most perfect romantic comedy I have yet seen. It's Chaplin in words and wit and tone of voice, rather than dancing and falling and poignant gazes. It could almost be an audio record instead of a movie. But there's enough visual stimulation, with optical flair, sight gags, and emotional actor performances to make it worthy of being watched rather than simply listened to.
   Hilarious and heart-breaking because it catches both a miracle as well as several blind-spots in our monetary-based society. The first great movie with a screenplay by Preston Sturges, and that's largely due to the on-point direction and the masterly performances by all.